A civil defense worker carries the body of Lebanese child recovered from the rubble of a demolished building that was struck by an Israeli airstrike at the village of Qana near the southern Lebanon city of Tyre, Sunday, July 30, 2006. The Associated Press and two other news agencies on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2006, rejected challenges to the veracity of photographs of bodies taken in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon, strongly denying that the images were staged. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Yesterday ("Using Dead Lebanese Children for Ammunition") we published some observations and questions about the pictures from Qana. The questions are many, and some of them are sharp. They're bouncing around the Internet. (See EUReferendum as a fine example.) Answers have been slow in coming. They relate to the grotesquery of dead babies being positioned in dramatic poses, in different locations around Qana, by the same handful of men adopting different facial emotions on demand. That the children are dead is true and unbearably painful. But that we know who killed them, when, where and how - that's an entirely different matter.
Did we say answers have been slow in coming? There have been no answers. Associated Press has stonewalled. The Guardian has rallied to the flag ("Attack on photographers in Lebanon is disgraceful"), and others from the journalism-by-wishful-thinking school won't be far behind. AP itself put out the following comprehensive rebuttal of the critics today:
"The AP said information from its photo editors showed the events were not staged, and the time stamps could be misleading for several reasons, including that they can show when pictures are posted, not taken.That's it.
They're global press agencies and we're just a couple of bereaved parents, victims of terror. They have a staff of hundreds, stringers by the thousand, and budgets in the millions. We have the Internet.
But even so, how do Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Press know, 36 hours after publishing these shocking images and sitting in their air-conditioned offices thousands of kilometers away from the scene, that they have not been manipulated, duped, by Hezbollah? Does Nasser Nasser know? Does
We've seen that confidence before. Last year, AP published this when the same individual kept popping into the viewfinder of their cameras:
There's no question that [Hezbollah] were genuinely grieving over the loss of their homes, their livelihood and their dreams. But they were also keenly aware that their struggle was being broadcast across the world ...Except that this quote above is doctored by us. AP was not referring to Hezbollah here. The word in brackets in the original article was "settlers" and that story was about Israelis. Check out the background in this CAMERA analysis. AP demonstrated it has an acute sense of when it's being used except when it's being used by what it, and much of the world as well, sees as being the weaker side in an asymmetrical conflict. What a terrible way to conduct a news business.
Until yesterday's newsagency-driven orgy of images, most of us reasonable people were appalled at the loss of innocent lives at Qana. As we said above, these are dead children. No soft words can change that. Now some of us - maybe many of us - are wondering whether we are being spun. Not that we doubted for a moment the cold-blooded callousness of Hezbollah. Their manipulation of Lebanon in general, and of children in particular, is a matter of record. But this isn't about Hezbollah. It's about their willing dupes in the media.
Anyone who sees this collection of pictures (we're posting it now - details to come), and especially the babies being posed while dangling in the air, comes away fairly sure something's very amiss here.
Except for the people making money - and maybe doing things that are much worse - from selling them.